“The Moslems want to see everything from close by”: seeing in pre-modern Eurasia

In 1626 , to gift their Mughal host in India, Francisco Pelsaert, an agent for the Dutch East India Company, sent the following request to his superiors in Europe: “Send us two or three good battle pictures, painted by an artist with a pleasing style, for the Moslems (Muslims) want to see everything from close by.” My talk starts with a discussion of the (in)validity of Pelsaertʼs observation and bring together a range of case studies to examine the relationship between objects and its beholders in Muslim societies in pre-modern Eurasia. It will also tentatively explore the link of the viewing habitus with the science of optics.